The State of Illinois has taken a role toward the front of the progressive nursing home camera movement. A few states across the country already have laws on the books permitting nursing homes operating in their respective jurisdictions to allow patients and their families to place surveillance cameras in the patient’s room if they choose to do so. The advantages should be obvious: cameras capture footage of abuse and neglect (for example a physical hitting, or a long lapse of time in which no staffer comes to check on the patient), and allow patients and their families to know what is going on, and to put a stop to it and hold the right people accountable. In most cases signs must be posted warning visitors and staff that there is a camera in a particular room, thus this also serves as a deterrent to one who might otherwise commit abuse, neglect the patient, or steal from the patient.
Some decry this permission as creating concerns over the privacy of visitors, but posting of signs at least provide notice to individuals that they are being taped. And such laws and policies typically ensure that where residents share a room, that consent is provided by roommates and their families where necessary in order to have a camera placed in the room. The Madigan proposal ensures such consent, requires residents and families to pay for the equipment, ensures that footage can be admitted in legal proceedings, and prohibits anyone from retaliating against a resident for using monitoring equipment or tries to tamper with or prevent the use of the cameras.
The Nursing Home Law in Illinois
Currently in Illinois, there is a bill in the state legislature that would permit nursing home residents to use video surveillance and/or audio recording. The bill has not only received tremendous support from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, but was actually proposed by the Attorney General, and proposed by a state Representative Greg Harris of Chicago. At the end of March, the bill took its first step on the path to becoming the law of the state, when it passed through the state House of Representatives Human Services Committee. Now that it has passed through the committee, the full House of Representatives will consider the bill.
The last time that the state legislature considered a nursing home camera bill was 2003, and the proposal did not even make it past committee review after the nursing home industry strongly opposed it. Now, in 2015, it is possible times and attitudes have changed, particularly with the well-known fact that Illinois is one of the worst-ranked states in the country for nursing home care. In other cases we have mentioned in this blog space, in states like Oklahoma, Ohio, New York and others, video surveillance has led to civil and criminal punishment of offenders and nursing homes themselves. In Oklahoma’s case, for example, camera footage depicting a nursing home staffer shoving latest gloves in a resident’s mouth, along with physical compressions on her chest, prompted the state legislature to enact the law permitting the use of cameras, as that case demonstrated its effectiveness.
Consistent with its poor record, Illinois authorities have received a tremendous volume of complaints about lack of care and/or abuse by nursing home staffers against residents. The Illinois Department of Public Health fields over 21,000 complaints per year and reportedly addresses about 5,000 of them. And as the baby boomer generation ages, it is anticipated that there will be more potential nursing home residents needing attention. Thus this bill is intended to be an added tool in combating abuse and neglect at nursing homes in the 21st century.
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